Back in the days when I was a CEO of a large company I was asked what my leadership style was. I was
never the flamboyant manager that attracted attention just by being there, or the person everyone turns their heads to when he enters the room. I knew that I was a leader thanks to the feedback I got from my direct reports, but It was difficult for me to pinpoint exactly how I did it. Eventually I have found the right description in Nelson Mandela’s (another leader, although of a totally different magnitude) “Long Walk to Freedom”: “A leader. . .is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind”. This, plus my genuine care about the people reporting to me made me a leader.
When thinking about leadership, many tend to intuitively think about great political, military or business leaders. Those who had the benefit of effective PR, voluntary or otherwise, take precedence.
But leadership comes in more than one flavour. Here are just a few examples:
- The front-runners: those who showed personal example and swept others in their trail. This type is mostly associated with military leaders.
- The magnates: industry leaders who have made a fortune and attract attention with a combination of outspokenness and public displays of extravaganza.
- The soap-box speakers: mostly political, religious or social-change leaders who sweep others with a combination of appealing ideas and oratory talent
All the above are examples that relate to famous leaders. But I am sure you can think of smaller-scale leaders whom you have met over the years – at school, at work, youth-movement, military-service etc. All those unsung-heroes that never came to fame but nevertheless influenced your life and the lives of those around you even for a short period of time. What type of leaders were they? How have they affected your life?
What type of leader are you?